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NAND Flash Memory Expanding Beyond iPod nano

NAND Flash Memory Expanding Beyond iPod nano

Presently, solid-state drives are not quite able to match the capacities and prices of traditional hard drives. However, delivering higher-capacity NAND chips just might make the solid-state drives a bit more practical for certain applications, such as in lightweight notebooks.

NAND flash memory is best known for storing music inside Apple Computer's cool iPod Nano.

The cutting-edge technology is, however, being used quite extensively in PCs as their capacities grow and costs come down. Hybrid hard drives, which incorporate 64 MB or 128 MB of flash as a buffer, are expected to be used widely in 2007, and IM Flash Technologies -- the Intel-Micron Technology flash memory venture -- expects huge gains from its investments in nanotechnology R&D.

The company last week bolstered its collaboration with Nanosys, a Palo Alto, Calif., nanotechnology startup that's designing microscopic nanowires that may be used to boost NAND flash memory chips' capacities in the future.

Solid-State Hard Drives

Solid-state hard drives from Samsung are also coming to market soon.

Memory densities are made possible by Nanosys' memory technology -- which was designed to increase memory chips' storage capabilities while still being completely compatible with current chip manufacturing methods. That would make it able to pack more bits of data into any memory chip, reducing NAND memory's cost per megabyte.

Presently, solid-state drives are not quite able to match the capacities and prices of traditional hard drives. However, delivering higher-capacity NAND chips just might make the solid-state drives a bit more practical for certain applications, such as in lightweight notebooks.

, based in Austin, Texas, this week reached a deal to license NAND flash-memory stacking technologies to Toshiba. "Working with Staktek will support us in raising customer satisfaction," said Shozo Saito, vice president of Toshiba's semiconductor unit. "Toshiba will continue to build a leading position in NAND flash memory."

More than 185 million DRAM stacks have been shipped, thus far, by Staktek, but the NAND-flash memory market is also relatively new for the firm. The product is built on the company's "extensive patent portfolio," said Wayne R. Lieberman, president and chief executive officer of Staktek, which generates a sizeable amount of its revenues from licensing intellectual property (IP).

Others Moving Forward Too

Other developers are moving forward, inspired by the success of Apple and its iPod nano. Toshiba Electronics last week introduced a multi-chip package (MCP) memory that -- in addition to standard MCP memory devices -- integrates a gigabyte-class NAND flash memory with an SD card interface controller.

The MCP "significantly strengthens" the capacity and versatility of its line-up of large capacity MCP memories for mobile phones, the company said, and is scheduled to go into production next month.

The memory incorporates a new NAND flash memory that has a capacity range of up to 2 GB and integrates a controller supporting an SD card interface. This particular chip stores a customer's data, including music files and digital photos.

Mobile phones increasingly offer advanced multimedia functions, Toshiba notes, including high resolution cameras and music players. However, true usability also requires larger memory capacities able to store high resolution digital photos and many hours of music.

This is fueling demand for MCP packages that can stack multiple, high performance memories in minimal space. Toshiba's new MCP memories stack a large capacity NAND flash memory and SD card controller with standard MCP memories.

With the new MCP memories, mobile phone owners can get the most out of 2- and 3-megapixel cameras and really enjoy their music, the Tokyo-based company said. The new 2 B MCP memory can store up to 35 hours of music recorded at a bit rate of 128 kbps.

What's more, the memories can also incorporate three memory interfaces -- like LP SDRAM, standard NAND flash memory and an SD card controller interface -- in a single package. That's adding quite some competition for the iPod nano.

Look for other developers to come out with their own NAND-flash memory-based products in the coming months to capitalize on the Apple-inspired trend.


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